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'Fairy circles' termite explanation debunked


Posted on Saturday, 24 May, 2014 | Comment icon 31 comments

A selection of fairy circles photographed in Namibia. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.5 Stephan Getzin
The mysterious circles of the Namibian grasslands don't appear to have been caused by termites after all.
Consisting of perfectly circular patches of barren dirt in the otherwise grass-filled landscape, fairy circles have been baffling experts for decades. Each ring measures up to 65ft in diameter and can last for an extremely long time with some persisting for up to 75 years.

Last year biologist Norbert Juergens, who had conducted a six-year survey to investigate which organisms were living within the circles, seemed to have solved the mystery when he concluded that the ring-shape patterns were the result of termites feeding on the grass roots.

Now however researcher Stephan Getzin and his colleagues have cast doubt on this theory on the basis that termites, far from being distributed in perfect circles, exist in far more irregular clusters and couldn't possibly have produced such perfect ring shapes by eating grass.

"There is, up to now, not one single piece of evidence demonstrating that social insects are capable of creating homogenously distributed structures on such a large scale," said Getzin.

Instead, the researchers believe that the circular patterns could be the result of the grass growing in self-regulating patterns in response to the competition for water in the arid Namibian climate.

Source: Discovery News | Comments (31)

Tags: Fairy Circles


 
Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #22 Posted by DieChecker on 1 June, 2014, 22:16
Clearly this is due to Chemtrails..... NOT
Comment icon #23 Posted by taniwha on 2 June, 2014, 8:08
To date there is no filmed evidence, even though we have night vision capabilities, that termites construct their own watering holes. Until then it is just as likely that termites are not responsible for them, and just as likely that plants are. The most comprehensive data collected so far is from satellite images and the fieldwork of independant researcher Walter R Tschinkel. His research is freely available and concludes that they remain a mystery. Of the two most likely theories for the circles, plants or termites, he seems to like the plant theory most. Read all about the life cycle of... [More]
Comment icon #24 Posted by DieChecker on 2 June, 2014, 21:02
That is a good read. It would suggest that the cause has many factors. It is interesting that this article says that the Outside grass is not the same species as that around the edge of the circles. I don't think the termite theory lacks logic either. What is illogical about it other then a lack of precedent of termites creating a circular affected area?
Comment icon #25 Posted by SaraT on 4 June, 2014, 11:07
Fungus. So it's ringworm in the desert sand. Or something.
Comment icon #26 Posted by docyabut2 on 14 June, 2014, 13:25
The temperatures can fall to below zero in the winter months, they could be ice circles imprints from the wet dew.
Comment icon #27 Posted by Nnicolette on 31 March, 2015, 23:06
I think it's fungus. I don't know if they are all the same but I had a couple fairy circles in my yard before they were made by mushrooms the circle just remains even when the caps aren't showing.
Comment icon #28 Posted by Whisperer on 31 March, 2015, 23:40
amazing that the edge of the rings sport vigorous growths, have to be secret gardeners ensuring a food supply or shade....could be Sand Kings (sci-fi termites)
Comment icon #29 Posted by shrooma on 31 March, 2015, 23:49
. it is. . . it's fairies..... .
Comment icon #30 Posted by Myles on 1 March, 2016, 19:38
I watched a little about these circles on the Science Channel today at lunch. I found it quite interesting. Termites were the best explaination, but I didn't create a new thread, because there may not be much interest, so I revived this one. I thought this was a good update.


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